Saturday 28 February 2009

Was he gay? Posterity won't know.

During the last two weeks I've come across a lot of information about three gay men's deaths. And the manner of their memorialisation troubles me. All three have a sea connection. Two were seafarers. One was a well-known maritime historian and leading museum worker. They are part of queer seafaring history, and deserve to be on the record.

But in two cases, nowhere in the newspapes obituaries was there a reference to the person being gay, even though all his colleagues and friends knew he was homosexual. And I too feel I shouldn't out the people here in this public place, so I won't name names. This is how queer history gets lost - and it's sad. And I don't know what to do about it - because I do believe peoples' wishes to keep homosexuality a secret should be respected.

In the third case, Geoffrey's funeral excluded all his gay colleagues. The gay steward's sister announced that she wanted no queers at the event, even though the gay community had been his real family far more than his blood family had been. However, a caring ex-shipmate dealt with this loss by arranging that there should be a small ceremony aboard the QE2. It was Geoffrey's old ship, which happened to be in port at that time.
The picture shows crew and officers - who didn't know Geoffrey - respectfully taking part in this 'alternative funeral.' It's great that it happened, but what a tragedy that there couldn't be more integration between these gay men's lives and their post-death commemoration .

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